Would it be possible to see the rings of Saturn with a telescope? How can one find out what years the rings are visible?
Absolutely! Even the smallest amateur telescope will clearly show the rings of Saturn, provided it is in focus.
Just like the Earth, Saturn's rotational axis is not perpendicular to the plane of its orbit. This means that, depending on the relative positions of Earth and Saturn in their orbits, we see the rings at different angles. The result is that we see Saturn's rings at different tilts in a 29 year cycle--opened down, edge-on, opened up, edge-on, and opened down again.
Right now, the viewing Saturn's rings is excellent. Any telescope will show the rings very much tilted 'up' as it is summer in Saturn's southern hemisphere. The apparent tilt of the rings will decrease until we see them edge-on in 2009-2010. Saturn can currently been seen high in the western sky before sunrise.
Brian Bearss, B.S., High School Physics Teacher, Yale, MI, USA
'I beseech you to take interest in these sacred domains so expressively called laboratories. Ask that there be more and that they be adorned for these are the temples of the future, wealth and well-being. It is here that humanity will grow, strengthen and improve. Here, humanity will learn to read progress and individual harmony in the works of nature, while humanity's own works are all too often those of barbarism, fanaticism and destruction.'